By the time we stop at the third bridal store, or maybe it’s the fourth, could be fifth because I’ve lost count, I realize why couples elope. The stress of having everything right, everything perfect, is almost too much to handle. The words I’ve heard today are it’s too frilly, not enough lace, the back looks odd, you look frumpy, is enough to make me want to throw my hands up and say forget it. Maybe it’s the champagne talking and being unreasonable in my head. With each store, comes a plate of hors d’oeuvres from restaurants looking to land a contract from me, and champagne from the best vineyards, wanting to supply our reception with their bottles. Because of my dad and who I’m marrying, the A-list treatment is real and all I want to do is pick a wedding dress with my mom and sister and decide on bridesmaids’ gowns that don’t look like they belong in an 80’s prom magazine. Most of all, I just want to marry Noah, in front of our family and friends, in a simple ceremony.
I’m surrounded by mirrors, and my reflection tells me that I’m tired and have had way too much champagne. I want to eat, gorge myself on carbs and ice cream until my stomach revolts. I want everything unhealthy and not listed on the approved list that my uncle Xander gave me. He means well and is only giving me what I wanted when I asked him to help get me into shape for my wedding.
My body jerks to the left or right, depending on which way the saleswoman is pulling the gown I’m trying on. It’s not my favorite, but my mom fawned over it as soon as she saw it on the hanger. In fact, she’s loved just about every dress she’s picked out, as well as some of Elle’s choices. Each one I show her, brings her to tears. I guess this is a mom thing to do, to cry at the sight of their daughters dressed in wedding gowns. I texted Noah and warned him I plan to be the same way when we have a daughter going through this. He replied, telling me how much he loves the idea that we’re going to have children.
I have yet to find the one. Not man, because I found him many years ago, but dress. In my mind, it exists. It’s out there, sitting on some rack, being passed by, waiting for me to try it on. I know I could have had a bespoke gown, designed, and made to my own specifications, if I were to delay my wedding for a few more months. I’m not sure a dress is worth it. My parents are going to spend hundreds, if not thousands, on a dress that I’ll wear for a few hours, send off to dry-cleaning and have stored in a box. It seems frivolous and a waste of someone’s time.
Elle enters the dressing area and crinkles her nose. She gets it. At least, she pretends to. “Do you like it?”
I stare at her through the mirrors, not answering. I don’t need to. It’s a twin thing, she knows how I’m feeling.
“Mom means well. She’s excited.”
“I can’t wait for it to be your turn,” I tell her. “When will Ben propose?”
Elle shrugs, playing my question off. Her relationship with Ben is similar to the one I share with Noah. Lifelong loves with the difference being Elle didn’t realize she was in love with Ben until it was almost too late. Her stubbornness almost blew her chance at happiness but thankfully Ben was determined to win her love.
“What? Don’t you talk about marriage?”
“Not really,” she says. “We’re both so busy. Ben has a really good job, plus he’s helping me launch my career. We’re both sort of focusing on work right now.”
“You want him to ask you. I can tell.”
Elle waves me off. “The commitment would be nice.”
“So ask him. I would’ve had Noah not. I wasn’t going to let him go.”
The saleswoman makes one final tug before she dismisses me to go see my mom. Elle helps me off the large platform and holds the curtains open for me. Mom stands, covers her mouth, and proudly proclaims this is the best one yet.
“Mom, you say that each time,” Elle points out. “How are we supposed to help Peyton choose?”
Mom wipes at the tears falling. “I can’t help it, I just…” she looks from me to Elle, and then down at the floor. “I’m emotional is all.”
She doesn’t have to finish her sentence. I already know she was going to say something like “never thought she’d see this day.” She’s not the only one to think that. Sometimes, I have nightmares about the wedding, about Noah and I. Me sitting in church, watching him marry someone else. I’m there out of obligation because our families have been friends for forever. In this dream, his bride finds me crying in the bathroom, telling me that everything will be okay. She has no idea who I am or that I’m madly in love with her new husband. She just sees a weeping woman in the restroom who needs comfort. When my dreams do show my wedding to Noah, it’s perfect because it’s him and I standing there, professing our love for one another.
“Peyton, do you like the dress?” My mother asks.
I look down and trace the intricate beadwork. A seamstress or tailor spent a long time putting this together and it will be the right dress for a bride that isn’t me. “It’s pretty, but I think it’s too busy for what I had in mind.”
Mom smiles. “We have a handful of other stores to try.”
“Actually, there’s a vintage shop not far from here. I’d like to look in there.”